KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Medicare Next Spring Will Mail Beneficiaries New Cards Without Social Security Numbers

The change is designed to cut down on the risk of identity theft. But the transition is sensitive since it involves coordination among beneficiaries, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and pharmacies. In other news, Medicare announces it will cover exercise therapy for peripheral artery disease, and two insurers in Florida settle a lawsuit over billing.

The Associated Press: Medicare Plans To Replace Social Security Numbers On Cards
Old Medicare cards will be going in the shredder. Officials said Tuesday the government is on track to meet a 2019 deadline for replacing Social Security numbers on Medicare cards with randomly generated digits and letters to protect seniors against identity theft. Planning for the massive transition has been underway for years. Beneficiaries and their families should start seeing changes next April, Medicare announced Tuesday. That's when the agency will begin mailing out new cards to more than 57 million elderly and disabled beneficiaries. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/30)

NBC News: Medicare Starts Replacing Social Security Numbers On ID Cards
"Personal identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors," CMS said in a statement. "People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice." (Fox, 5/30)

Modern Healthcare: Medicare To Cover Supervised Exercise For Heart Disease 
Following a request from cardiologists, the CMS will now offer national Medicare coverage of supervised exercise therapy for treating peripheral artery disease. The agency said in a coverage decision released Thursday that research has shown supervised exercise therapy can help alleviate common symptoms of the cardiovascular disease, including pain and discomfort in a patient's legs. Peripheral artery disease occurs when plaque buildup narrows the arteries outside the heart. It affects 12% to 20% of Americans age 60 and older, and the incidence of the disease increases considerably with age. (Dickson, 5/30)

Kaiser Health News: Two Medicare Advantage Insurers Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit For $32 Million
Two Florida Medicare Advantage insurers have agreed to pay nearly $32 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged they exaggerated how sick patients were and took other steps to overbill the government health plan for the elderly. The suit, settled on Tuesday, was filed in 2009 by Dr. Darren Sewell, a physician and former medical director at the two health plans, Freedom Health and Optimum HealthCare, both based in Tampa. Sewell worked at the plans from 2007 to 2012. He died in 2014, but his family took over the case. (Schulte, 5/30)

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